Recently, I was able to prove my three times O’Rourke great grandparents through a DNA match even though my match had no idea she had any O’Rourke’s in her ancestry. Not only was I able to finally verify my three times great grandparents names, I helped her add two more generations to her family tree.
In the O’Rourke branch of my tree going back past my two times great grandparents has proven difficult. I have not been able to locate my two times great grandfather’s James Rourke (O’Rourke) baptismal record in the Kilbroney church records in County Down. I have always made an educated guess as to who is parents were and it differed from what other family members thought.
There are two possible explanations why I can’t find James Rourke’s records. Several pages of the Kilbroney Parish church register are faded and his record may be hiding in there somewhere. The other explanation is that his parent’s never got around to baptizing him.
This is what I do know about James Rourke. He died in 1905 at the age of 80 in the townland of Ballintur in the Kilkeel civil registration district in County Down, so his birthdate must have been around 1825. He married my two-times great grandmother Mary Hughes in 1859, so he would have been about 34 years old. He had five children, his first born being my great grandfather John in 1861 and the last being my great grand uncle Francis in 1868.
I also used the Griffiths Valuation document to determine that his father’s name was John. In the Griffith’s Valuation, a John Jr. leased the same land until his death in 1869, when James Rourke took over the lease.
For a couple of months I’ve been trying to establish just how Quinn family from Atticall, Kilkeel, County Down is related to me. I can report now that I’ve solved at least part of the puzzle. The DNA test that I took with Ancestry.com a few years ago links me to the Quinn family and I made that discovery yesterday. More on that later.
A little background
As I’ve written earlier, John Quinn established the first grocery store in Newry in County Down known as the Milestone in 1909. He ended up doing quite well in Ireland opening up grocery stores in various locations in County Down. My great grandmother Mary Rogers’ sister, Catherine (Kate), listed him as her cousin and her closest relative living in Ireland when she immigrated to the U.S. in 1910. Here is a link to my earlier post if you would like to read more: catherine-rogers-murphy-cousin-john-quinn
My grandfather’s cousin, Mary C. O’Rourke revealed in a video taken in 1986 that she was playmates when she was in Ireland with two of John and Mary Quinn’s (Fitzsimmons) oldest sons – John and Patrick. John and Patrick later changed their names to the Gaelige version – Sean and Padraig – and fought for Irish independence in the early 1920s. Sean died in the Irish Civil war in 1923 and Padraig was injured and lost a leg in the same conflict. Padraig went on to become a successful medical doctor in Ireland.
Taking another look
Just recently I went back and looked and my great grandfather John’s records. In the 1891 England census he is listed as a boarder in Birkenhead in a home occupied by the Sloan family, also from County Down. I suspect my great grandfather was a relative of the Sloan family. Also listed as a boarder is a Richard Quinn from County Down. John Quinn had a brother named Richard and Richard’s age listed in the census is 20, born the same year as John Quinn’s brother Richard. Hence, I believe, they are the same person. I don’t believe Richard is related to my great grandfather, only to my great grandmother’s family. I now think it is a possibility that Richard Quinn may have introduced my great grandfather to his future wife, my great grandmother Mary Rogers while they were all living in the Liverpool area.
I‘m a self-taught amateur genealogy buff, researching my Irish family and I thought I’d share with others how I’ve researched my own ancestors. People have often asked me, how did I find out all that information? The answer is that I have found interesting information on many of my ancestors by using several different approaches. Like much original research, there is no one magical website or library, or place where you are going to find out everything. It takes persistence, but you will be surprised at what you can find out.
Ten years ago I didn’t know anything. I knew the names of grandparents and that they were born in Liverpool. That was it. To top it off, I didn’t even have my grandmother’s correct birth name. My father passed away when I was five years old and I was cut off from my father’s side of my family. This made it all the more enticing to find out about this branch of the family. It wasn’t until I came into contact with one of my uncles in 2006 that I found out just where in Ireland the family originated from. But again, my uncle didn’t know precisely where his family was from — only roughly.
And, Ireland can be especially tough to research. A lot of records before 1862 only exist in the hundreds of different parishes in Ireland. Most are Roman Catholic, but then there is the Church of Ireland and in Northern Ireland, the Presbyterian parishes. There was no centralized location because it wasn’t required to register birth, deaths or marriages civilly until after 1862.
Here’s how I went about researching my ancestors:
I subscribed to an online genealogy site — Ancestry.com. This is probably the most important step that I took in researching my Irish ancestors. Yes this costs money — a lot of money. I spend $300 a year for the World Explorer membership. If you can’t afford that, there is a less expensive option. Also, your public library may offer Ancestry.com for free, as well as your nearest LDS church. Ancestry.com gives me access to hundreds of databases that I can search and it includes Ireland and UK databases, essential if you are researching the Irish. Ancestry.com has tools to create a family tree and once you enter an ancestor, it will compare that person with the millions of other’s who have family trees on its site.